26 March 2010

£8 million donation for ground-breaking MND institute

An artist's impression of the SITraN building

A new £12 million state-of-the-art research institute, which is set to make the University of Sheffield a world leader for research into Motor Neurone Disease (MND), has received a generous donation of £8 million, making it the largest donation the University has received since it was founded in 1905.

The donation came from the Sheffield Institute Foundation for Motor Neurone Disease (SIFMND), which was formed by a concerned group of patrons who wanted to support the development of the institute. Over the past four years the patrons have engaged in every type of fundraising event from mass sponsored community events to gala concerts and gruelling expeditions.

Stephen Sly, the Chairman of SIFMND, visited the University last week (18 March 2010) to sign the formal gift agreement for this major philanthropic gift. Mr Sly, who is also a graduate of the University and Managing Partner of DLA Piper, thanked the patrons for their hard work in a speech before signing an agreement with Professor Tony Weetman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, and Bob Rabone, Director of Finance at the University.

Professor Tony Weetman, Mr Stephen Sly and Mr Bob Rabone

The Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), which will be run by staff at the University, will bring together scientists and medical specialists from around the globe who will be dedicated to finding the causes and cure for MND, as well as other degenerative conditions such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer’s, Spinal Muscular Atrophy and Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
Over 5,000 people in the UK suffer from MND. It is an incurable disease which destroys the cells that control movement causing progressive disability. Sufferers may lose their ability to walk, talk, eat and breathe. At present, treatment options for the protection of motor neurones have only a modest effect and more effective therapies are urgently needed.

Mr Sly said: “We have been very fortunate to have a group of patrons and supporters dedicated to raising funds. Their enthusiasm and passion to help the University of Sheffield has been outstanding. I would like to extend my thanks and gratitude to all those who have been involved in fundraising for SITraN.”

Professor Pamela Shaw, an international expert in MND and head of the new institute, said: “The patrons of SIFMND are inspirational and their support and generosity have spurred me on to build a dedicated research institute which will bring together the best clinicians and scientists under one roof. This is a wonderful and exciting step forward for patients with MND and other disorders of the motor system, and we are delighted to be part of it.”

Irene Beard, a patron of SIFMND, added: “There was a need for more scientific research to find the causes and develop treatments for MND. We believe that this new institute will achieve this and bring huge benefits to patients across the world. It is fantastic to be part of this project and to help raise much needed funds for such a great project.”

Miles Stevenson, Director of Development at the University of Sheffield, commented: “This is the largest philanthropic gift to the University from private benefaction since the Edwardian period. We are most grateful to all the donors to SIFMND, both large and small, who have made this possible.”